Himapans sustainability

Clearing up with green myths

The hard facts

Photograph of a Landarea we care for in Khanom, southern Thailand.

Keywords for sustainability

Intensity and continuity, the key variables for defining any grade of sustainability

It is interesting that we rarely hear of ‘intensity’ and ‘permanence’ in the usual ads from green companies. And after reading some commercial websites for sustainable food products, you might get the impression that the ultimate agriculture allowing to fit perfectly into nature really does exist.

Keen ecological observation, nevertheless, showed us something different: Every interference into the living or material environment, changes natures balance. Your actions might be as green as the forest itself. In the end, it becomes a matter of scale and duration.

When we realize that there is no harmless interference into nature, that there always will be also negative sideeffects, we get a better understanding for consequences respective our actions.

Photo: Working on the land in Khanom

Many people imagine that there is this kind of elusive lifestyle with perfect awareness and no disturbance of nature. But the facts that have been discovered until now draw another picture: Everything has two sides. Even in prehistoric times, the new and rapidly expanding human hunters and gatherers must have had an devastating effect on the Megafauna, which are actually all large animals. Historical data showed that the animals even were extinct when not beeing hunted, but survived when humans were not present.

With todays human population density, it is not a question if we are moving the natural balance but a question wether we can direct the change in ways nature can cope with. This needs time, room and slower change of cycles.

Stability

Diversity of life and land is more resilient against disturbances
Photo of the diversity in Maes garden in Koh Hua Chang

Our age is characterized by an increasing number of events that have a higher irregularity and intensity. That includes climate fluctuations with heat waves, floodings and droughts, but also vermins, species invasions and pests.

A natural system with higher diversity does compensate better because regarding the disturbance, there is a higher chance that other more resilient species can continue the role of a strongly affected and diminished species. Also, in case of vermins and pests, there is a higher chance that there are species that hinder the expansion of the intruders.

Diversity in land creates more different kinds of habitat with different conditions. So a threatened species has a higher chance to find a place where it can survive.

Knowing the direction

Land-use is always an interference into the life community. That is why farming needs biomonitoring to measure how life is affected.

Every square metre land ist home to an uncountable amount of life. That raises the questions how life on an agricultural land can be monitored at all? Especially, when many lifeforms are agile and multi-metering is to be expected.

That is where we enter the domain of science and the amount of respective existing publications show that appropriate existing tools don’t need to be reinvented when starting your own approach.

Regarding the difficulty of the task compared to our limited financial and human resources, we agreed to a compromise and decided to concentrate on two groups at moment: Obviously plants, because they don’t move and insects with their near omnipresence in Thailand.

Our Monitoring in detail:

  • Trees in the whole area
  • Small plants in random samples of one squaremeter size
  • Insects in random samples
  • In the whole area, when spotted, any lifeforms to share them with the citizen science community

Furthermore

  • Standard land values
  • Soil horizonts
  • Standard water values

If more ressources will be available:

  • Birds
  • Insect diversities on single trees
  • Soils life diversity
  • Diversity in waters
  • Mikrobial diversity on trees, crops, waters and in soil

We don’t close the eyes when crossing the street. As well, when using land, we shouldn’t close our eyes to how we affect the local community. After all, we are just guests on any piece of land and depend on it.

The main approach

Sustainable farming needs an eye for the detail but also a wider approach
No synthetics, no intruders

No synthetic products or invasive species are brought in

Small farms

Several smaller lots of land from different farmers with varying use create more diversity.

Value chain

It is good to start making things better yourself, but it really gets interesting when you look at suppliers and services as well.

Traditional farming landscapes

Over centuries, nature could adapt to the traditional farming landscapes. That is why many of the passed down farming styles provide a high amount sustainability.

Wilderness on the farmland

No heavy-use agriculture, but room for nature itself. On lots that we care for, 20 percent land are not used and reserved for wildlife. Of course, until these parts have regenerated, some years will have to pass on. On connecting lands, we place the wildlife areas in a way, that corridors and small hideaways are formed. In the long term, these wild patches will also benefit the farming because they can raise the resilience of the whole lot against climate change and harmful intruding species.

No heavy machinery

No use of heavy agricultural machines on the land to avoid soil compaction.

Climate neutral

Are Carbon emission numbers important? Yes a lot, but they tend to distract

Nowadays, most respectable entreprises claim to operate carbon neutral. And in fact, limiting the effects of climate change is second most important after habitat loss to stop the huge mass extinction happening right now.

Carbon footprint evaluations actually mean dealing mostly with numbers. While beeing vital for sustainable management we see the danger that they divert from the nature of todays environmental threatening.

It is not complex carbon emission evaluations that drives peoples change of behaviour but their basic motives, point of view and values. Numbers are good, but the right attitude is a force.

If the human inner compass does not learn to relate to the earths living community which includes humanity, there will be no persistent change. Through secured civilised life, isolated from the forces of nature and other, potentially harmful beeings there are no real reference points to reasonable human interaction with nature. How very fatal this proves to be shows the current development of earths biodiversity. We bought safety with houses and technology but created a pile of consequences which we are pushing along. And the consequences grow, decade by decade.

Carbon emissions are not enough

Carbondioxide is a key molecule in the global carbon cycle. Normally locked away for thousands of years beneath the soil, fossil carbon from the slow terrestric cycles is brought up in form of gas or oil and put in to use. That way, ‘slow’ carbon is transferred into the fast carbon cycles of atmosphere and global surface.

Companies have at least two approaches being carbon neutral: Reduce emissions, which is the better way, or counterbalancing them by funding projects that bind atmospheric carbon to the surface. Mostly by growing trees that are essentially organic carbon. The problem with the second method is, that the carbon didn’t leave the fast cycles. Maybe ten years later a fire or the project’s end with the clearing of the whole forest sets the emissions all free again. That means that the ‘expression carbon neutrality’ does not have to mean much when having a closer look.

The ecological footprint
Photo of my brother-in-law Pi Pan with his son at the beach in Khanom

The ecological footprint is concentrating on the calculation of land use and less on the quality of use. For example, when accounting one acre of farmland for vegetables, there is no difference if it is a industrial monoculture or a permaculture-project. The ecological footprint regards both examples as used ressources.

To us, that gives the impression of earth being a kitchen roll where land is used-up like ripping off sheet by sheet. As a matter of fact, land does not have to be a one-way product. It is renewable and regenerative by nature if we have the heart to allow it. Exactly this is our approach: To give some room for life back to land that has been in any kind of use. This can happen on our farm, but also in your garden, at the parking lot, in cities or industries.

Of course, we have made great efforts to reduce our footprint. Here some examples:

  • Our company is seated in a passive energy house with green power supplies
  • Small deliveries are made by bike or public transports
  • Larger transports are done with a vehicle shared with the local exchange community (Thanks to Josef!)
  • We reduce our consumption of electricity and web data
  • We do not buy any products made of not-recycled paper. Even our product labels are recycled
  • Locally, we optionally sell our products without any packaging: Means customers bring their own jars and refill.

Conclusion

To some, all this might seem a bit off, a little bit too idealistic.

Actually we are not - we are just seeing the changes in Thailand, for the bad and for the good. So we do what we can, to bring our part in and save as much as we can. We have the impression that, at moment, there is a need for people helping to understand how globals natural life diversity and our own quality of life is threatened by some modern elements of lifestyle. The consequences are not easily realized because the effects mostly occur indirectly. That’s what makes consumer life so convenient and attractive.